Japanese Destroyer Captain

ISBN: 034531767X
ISBN 13: 9780345317674
By: Tameichi Hara Tameichi Hara Roger Pineau Fred Saito

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History Japan Japanese Military Naval Non Fiction To Read World War 2 World War Ii Wwii

About this book

The Naval Institute Press is pleased to make available for the first time this cloth edition of a now-classic war memoir that was a best seller in both Japan and the United States during the 1960s. Originally published as a paperback in 1961, it has long been treasured by World War II buffs and professional historians for its insights into the Japanese side of the surface war in the Pacific. The book has been credited with correcting errors in U.S. accounts of various battles and with revealing details of high-level Imperial Japanese Navy strategy meetings. The author, Captain Tameichi Hara, was a survivor of more than one hundred sorties against the Allies and was known throughout Japan as the Unsinkable Captain. Called the workhorses of the navy, Japanese destroyers shouldered the heaviest burden of the surface war and took part in scores of intense sea battles, many of which Captain Hara describes here. In the early days of the war victories were common, but by 1943, the lack of proper maintenance of the destroyers and sufficient supplies, along with Allied development of scientific equipment and superior aircraft, took its toll. On April 7, 1945, during the Japanese navy s last sortie, Captain Hara managed to survive the sinking of his own ship only to witness the demise of the famed Japanese battleship Yamato off Okinawa. A hero to his countrymen, Captain Hara exemplified the best in Japanese surface commanders: highly skilled (he wrote the manual on torpedo warfare), hard driving, and aggressive. Moreover, he maintained a code of honor worthy of his samurai grandfather, and, as readers of this book have come to appreciate, he was as free with praise for American courage and resourcefulness as he was critical of himself and his senior commanders. The book s popularity over the past forty-six years testifies to the author s success at writing an objective account of what happened that provides not only a fascinating eyewitness record of the war, but also an honest and dispassionate assessment of Japan s high command. Captain Hara s sage advice on leadership is as applicable today as it was when written. For readers new to this book and for those who have read and re-read their paperback editions until they have fallen apart, this new hardcover edition assures them a permanent source of reference and enjoyment.

Reader's Thoughts


A good historical read from the other side of the conflict. Some care was taken to square the author's recollections with historical accounts, which made the read more compelling. Overall, I enjoyed it.

Jamie Morrison

A well written book that is most effective when describing the actual combat experienced by Mr Hara. The title was somewhat misleading in Mr Hara did not actually participate in Pearl Harbor or Midway but his experiences in The Battle of Java Sea and The Solomons were spectacularly detailed throughout the book.

Doug Vanderweide

** spoiler alert ** An enjoyable memoir that fully delivers on the dust jacket's promise of "the other side" of the Pacific War. Tameichi Hara's war began around Formosa and the Inland Sea during the 1930s. He was part of the diversionary forces at Pearl Harbor and Midway, but most of his book surrounds the Solomon Islands campaign, where he participated in most of the major actions.Hara's take on the war is largely predictable and follows modern, conventional thought on Japan's problems in the middle part of the war: Attrition, failure to enforce major surface engagements early on, and American technical superiority, especially radar, quickly stacked the odds against Japan.But Hara is also quite willing to name names and call out the failings of his superiors, especially the high command.He specifically faults Tokyo with cronyism and acquiescing too often to the Army, although he admits that is where the political power in World War II Japan lay.He does not so much credit Americans with tactical prowess -- he compliments it in the few places he finds it -- but tends to believe that Japanese combatants usually made more mistaks than their American counterparts, and that was the cause of most of their losses, rather than the odds. Given the outcomes of the most notable Solomon Islands battles, I'd argue he's probably right.Tinged with anecdotes about his personal life, life aboard ship and "behind-the-scenes" events, this was an absolute joy to read. Making it even better were the footnotes, in which certain claims, actions and details were clarified by Roger Pineau, a Naval Institute Press scholar. Suggested to me with high praise, which I am happy to echo.

Frank Larizza

Good account of certain battles of Pac. campain told from a Japanese Destroyer Captain.An interesting book.

Chris Bull

This is tale of mistakes. Not that the Japanese Imperial Forces could have won over the Allies (superior technology and planning), but the problems that the Japanese Navy faced from their Joint Forces commanders. It seems that serious belief in tried and true methods prevailed (even after the novelty wore off) - the high command never stopped to examine alternate strategies. We can see Japan plunging towards defeat.

Sean Chick

A very well written and engaging book that is both mournful and action packed. I love how the author knows when to be vulnerable and personal, something lacking from similar accounts by military men. My one issue is that Hara too often lowers himself to "if only they had listened to me!" While undoubtedly a gifted commander, and probably very prescient, this sort of thing can be found in all of the memoirs of talented commanders on the losing side, and I'm starting to think it is as constant as the northern star. Japan was doomed from the moment they lost Midway, and even before that their chances were slim. Listening to Hara would have only prolonged the inevitable, and in fact might have cost more lives on both sides as the war dragged on. Of course I'm skeptical that Hara even thought of those many solutions. Thankfully he does point out a few times when he thought of the wrong thing (he believed in battleships for too long). As an extended narrative critique of Japan's navy and militarism in general, Hara's book works quite well even if he seems to see the Japanese invasion of China as not all that bad. Bottom line is get this book. Few military memoirs are this good.


It is hard to stay objective and give this book "only" four stars as after reading it, I have to have a great respect for captain Hara. Even though he was on the "bad" side. Some events could have been described in more detail, I also think there should have been some information about how he lived through the end of the war and after it and there are also several factual errors even though it was checked by an American naval officer. For example, calling Enterprise an "escort carrier" :-)There is a great review on amazon with which I mostly agree.http://www.amazon.com/review/R2I2P4AG...=


Very highly recommended to anyone who has any interest in naval operations in the Pacific theater of war. For most Westerners, this humble reviewer included, the Japanese perspective on the Pacific war is a distinctly remote reality. Not too many books from Japanese military men have been translated in English. If only for that reason, captain Tameichi Hara's book would be outstanding already. Yet the qualities of this particular book do not end there, and I believe they are many. To say that the author is an experienced sailor would be a massive understatement. He took part in many important engagements, including an active tour in the Solomons, around Guadalcanal. He experienced first hand the naval battle of Guadalcanal (where his Amatsukaze destroyer was stranded by the Helena) and the Battle of the Java sea, among others. Hara also offers insight about day-to-day operation within the Japanese Imperial navy as well as tactical and operational considerations on naval warfare in general. The tone of the book is critical and lucid, and Hara indiscriminately addresses his harsh judgement to himself, his superiors and his enemies without restriction, distributing praises or critiques as he sees fit, including reservations about Yamamoto's strategical abilities and the entire Combined Fleet high-level leadership.Again, very highly recommended.


Several years ago, at a used book sale, I chanced upon this book, which proved to be a priceless gem. There are very few books that present the Pacific War from the perspective of the Japanese. The author served as a commander in the Imperial Navy on active service for most of the war. His accounts of action against the U.S. Navy during some of the epic battles off Guadalcanal (in addition to his earlier experiences in the Battles of Java Sea and Midway) make for very compelling reading. This is the book for anyone who has an interest in the Pacific War.


One of the best books written about Japanese side of the Pacific Naval War. If you like World War 2 history and want to see it thru the eyes of a officer who was there then pick up this book and read it.

Michael Flanagan

I went into this book with high expectations but what I got was an average WWII memoir. I found that the story did not flow freely and was very laborious in areas. The author repeated himself often in the book and I wonder if that is due to translation issues or poor editing. The book does have some intense battle scenes and it goes some way to give a good sense of what it is like to be a leader of men during wartime. Why it is refreshing to read a World War II book from a Japanese view it was not enough to raise the book above mediocrity for me.

John Machata

Hara's clear vision from the view from his deck offers a delightful glimpse of the War in the Pacific. Delightful read. Short.


This is compelling documentation by a Japanese naval commander from WWII. A very interesting account of naval battles with US forces. He also reveals how the US was able to wipe out Japan's fleet in the later stages of the war, and how Japan's military leadership decision making hastened its own defeat.

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